"You know you've got to start a winery when you make more wine than you can drink."
As far as John Williams and Jim Holmes were concerned, the plan was perfect. It was an 84-acre patch of desolate sagebrush and cheatgrass nestled between Red Mountain and the Yakima River. They did their research, of course, and as far as they could tell, the area was perfect for growing grapes. It had south-facing slopes, incredible hezel silt loam soil, and temperate sunny weather conditions. It didn’t matter that they had to bring electricity in from 3 miles away or dig a well on their own dime. They were going to plant a vineyard, and it was going to be good.
“We’d researched it and knew there was water about some 500 feet deep. We were at 550 feet and close to the end of our cash, and we hadn’t hit water yet, and the well driller asked us how far we wanted to go. We asked, how much money have we got left? We drilled about five more feet and hit the water.”
Turns out it was a great decision to drill just a little further. With the water now flowing, the partners decided to go ahead and plant four acres each of three classic varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Employing what one of John’s children would jokingly call “slave child labor” more than 30 years later, the first grapes were planted on Red Mountain in 1975. The first fruit was ready in 1978, but only two years would pass before Kiona Vineyards became Kiona Vineyards and Winery and produced the first wine under the name in 1980.
Fast forwarding a few decades, the Red Mountain AVA is recognized as one of the world's premier grape growing areas, renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah of unmatched intensity and depth of character. Kiona Vineyards and Winery operates as a three generation family winery with over 300 acres under vine.
These Legends of Washington Wine had a lot to lose when they started this venture almost 40 years ago. Here's to another 40.
Sure they were brave. But also pretty lucky.